SEATTLE – Authorities at Mount Rainier National Park faced the grim task Friday of recovering the body of one of their own rangers who fell more than 3,000 feet to his death while helping rescue members of a climbing party who fell into a crevasse.
Ranger Nick Hall, 34, died Thursday as he was helping evacuate climbers by helicopter near the summit of the 14,411-foot mountain.
The Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord removed three of the four climbers from Waco, Texas. Rangers stayed overnight with the fourth person.
They started down Friday morning, but the park still hoped a helicopter would be able to pick her up and recover Hall’s body, said spokeswoman Patti Wold.
The weather wasn’t helping. It was raining at the ranger station at Longmire. And the National Weather Service said it was snowing above 10,000 feet.
That’s the level where Hall landed after a 3,000-foot slide. Originally from Patten, Maine, Hall was a four-year veteran of the park’s climbing program. He was single with no children, the park said.
Hall had helped put three of the Texas climbers into a helicopter when he fell about 5 p.m. Thursday.
The park withheld the names of the Texas climbers until their families were notified.
They had reached the summit and were on their way down, roped together, when two fell into the crevasse on Emmons Glacier. A third member called for help by cellphone. Rangers and the helicopter responded to the site at the 13,700-foot level.
The helicopter airlifted the three to Madigan Army Medical Center at the military base near Tacoma. The park said none of the four had suffered life-threatening injuries.
Darkness and worsening weather with 40 mph winds prevented the copter from rescuing the fourth climber Thursday night.
Hall was the second Mount Rainier National Park ranger to die this year. Ranger Margaret Anderson was fatally shot on New Year’s Day as she tried to stop a man who drove through a tire-chain checkpoint at Longmire. Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, was suspected in a Seattle shooting earlier that day. His body was found the next day about a mile away in the snow.
Four people – two climbers and two campers – disappeared on the mountain in a January storm. A mountain rescue team couldn’t find them, and they remain missing.
About 10,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit of the volcano each year and about half make it, Wold said.